Sign of the Times (Square)

Here's your nightly math! Just 5 quick minutes of number fun for kids and parents at home. Read a cool fun fact, followed by math riddles at different levels so everyone can jump in. Your kids will love you for it.

Sign of the Times (Square)

November 18, 2014

Times Square, a stretch of blocks in the middle of New York City, is famous for signs so bright that even at night the streets are as bright as daylight. These signs, or billboards, usually show ads telling you to buy some kind of clothing or toy. Well, tonight the biggest billboard ever built will light up in Times Square: it’s over 8 stories tall and is almost as long as a football field! It stretches a whole street block, from 45th St. to 46th St. The pictures on it will look super-sharp since the sign holds 24 million tiny lights called LEDs. And since it’s so easy to see and so special, it’s also the most expensive billboard ever: companies have to pay $2.5 million dollars to show their ad on it for 4 weeks. The movie company Universal is the first user, which may be why Buzz Lightyear, Woody and Elmo are hanging out in front of it. If you want to join them and see this sign, be sure to bring your sunglasses.

Wee ones: Which is taller, this 8-story-tall sign or a 2-story house?

Little kids: If this sign is 8 stories tall and your home is 2 stories tall, how many stories taller is this sign?  Bonus: If instead the sign stretched for 2 blocks from 45th Street, with a tunnel through it for cars, at what street would it end?

Big kids: Every day about 300,000 people walk through Times Square. If they’re new people every day, how many people walk through in 1 week?  Bonus: In New York, about 20 street blocks equal 1 mile. If a mile is about 5,000 feet, about how long is a street block – and this sign?

The sky’s the limit: If there are 6 times as many LEDs going across the sign as there are running up and down, how many LEDs wide and tall is the sign?




Wee ones: The sign – by a lot!

Little kids: 6 stories taller.  Bonus: At 47th Street.

Big kids: 2,100,000 (2 million, 100 thousand).  Bonus: 250 feet.

The sky’s the limit: You need 2 numbers that multiply to 24 million. Since 1 million is a thousand thousands, you simply need 2 numbers in the thousands where their starting digits multiply to 24. That gives us 12,000 wide and 2,000 tall. To solve using algebra, if the sign is t LEDs tall, then
t x 6t = 24,000,000
6(t x t) = 24,000,000
t x t = 4,000,000
so t = 2,000.

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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